Harrison Ford returns as the intrepid explorer with Indiana Jones And The Dial Of Destiny. But does he go out on a high or is he a relic that needs to be buried?
Indiana Jones And The Dial Of Destiny marks the final adventure for the intrepid explorer. After five films and forty-two years, the movie is Harrison Ford’s swansong as Indy. Featuring Phoebe Waller-Bridge as Indy’s goddaughter Helena, and Mads Mikkelsen as the villain Jürgen Voller, the film brings the franchise full circle. Set in 1969 against the Space Race, the film has plenty of action scenes, thrills, and spills to fill part of its 154-minute runtime. But is that enough for the long-time fans of the character? Does the film make up for the failings of Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull? And does Indy go out on a high or is he failed by a film that deserves to be buried and forgotten?
In 1944, American archaeologist and adventurer Indiana Jones helps colleague Basil Shaw against Jürgen Voller, a Nazi, from obtaining a mysterious dial known as the Antikythera. Twenty-five years later, Jones is uneasy over the fact that the U.S. government has recruited former Nazis to help beat the Soviet Union in the competition to make it to space. He is about to be forced into retirement from his teaching position because of his opposition to the practice.
Surprisingly, Basil’s daughter Helena Shaw (Jones’s Goddaughter) accompanies him on his journey for the Antikythera. Meanwhile, Voller, now a NASA member and ex-Nazi involved with the Apollo Moon-landing program, wishes to make the world into a better place as he sees fit by obtaining the Antikythera, pitting him up against the archaeologist once again.
Sadly, the answer is the latter. Once the opening twenty-five minutes are over (The best part of the film), what we are given isn’t the send-off the hero deserves. It is a labored, drawn out, and surprisingly at times, boring finale to the franchise. Rather than ride off into the sunset, Indy is dragged there slowly. What is supposed to be action-packed and exciting comes across as desperate, tired, and not all that thrilling. At no time are we really invested in any of the new characters as they are written so poorly that we forget them by the time the end credits have finished. It’s not that the acting isn’t good, it’s just that they have very little to work with.
The premise that teased so much offers us so little. The characters we should be invested in become annoying very quickly, with one being a replacement for Short Round from Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom. But instead of being endearing, he comes across as a poor substitute. It is to the actors’ credit that they manage to make what they can out of so little. Even the climax, which appears out of nowhere, is so outlandish it makes the ending of Crystal Skull seem an Oscar winner by comparison. It doesn’t just jump the shark, it launches it into outer space. While we could believe in the endings to the first three movies, here we find ourselves shaking our heads in disbelief.
Of course, you know going in that Harrison Ford is going to deliver. And once again he does. This version of Indy is one we haven’t seen before. Old, tired, depressed, on the verge of divorce, and drinking far too much, Indy senses that this is the end of the road for him. Where once his students were hooked on his every word, now they really don’t care or have time for his lessons. We feel sorry for the plight of our hero, after all these years and adventures, time has almost defeated him. And Ford plays him to perfection once again. But this is merely a bump in the road for the hero. Before long, he’s back doing what he does best. And the film picks up slightly.
Much has been made of the CGI de-aging of Ford. Apart from a few noticeable areas, they have pulled it off really well. Sometimes we can see that it’s CGI and not reality. But they are few and minor. However, having a younger Indy have the voice of the older version is a bit jarring. But for the first thirty minutes of the film, we really are back with Raiders-era Indiana Jones. And Harrison Ford makes us smile and cheer once again. Sadly, this happens to be the storm before the calm with regard to the rest of the film.
PHOEBE WALLER-BRIDGE & MADS MIKKELSON
Phoebe Waller-Bridge plays the female lead in Helena Shaw, Indy’s goddaughter. While she does indeed get into the action and does have a vital part to play in the ongoing story, she isn’t the character we need her to be. And that isn’t Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s fault. She is let down by some poor characterization in the screenplay and the way her character is written. Instead of being a character we can get behind, cheer on, and root for, she comes across as confused and annoying. It feels as if the writers threw her into the mix, gave her some lines and action to perform, and then thought it would be fine. It isn’t. She deserves better as does the audience.
Mads Mikkelson is always of great value in whatever movies he appears in. The same goes here. But again, he is let down by some lazy writing, meaning that instead of being a villain we can all boo and hiss, he seems almost passive in his actions. He does get up to some villainous moments later on but it is too little, too late. Voller is supposed to be an evil Nazi that we will despise. Instead, he comes across as almost a good-natured person who is just going in the wrong direction and the way he does things. And we almost feel sorry for him from time to time.
SHAUNETTE RENEE WILSON & BOYD HOLBROOK
Shaunette Renee Wilson as Mason, a US government agent, and Boyd Holbrook as Klaber, Voller’s nefarious right-hand man, fare a little better. Wilson appears, says some lines, does a few things and then is out of the movie. Period. Her motivations in the story are never made clear. She appears to be helping Voller due to instructions from the US President for what Voller did for the US Space program. We never get to discover her true motives or the way she acts. She is just a token throwaway character that adds little to the story of the film.
Boyd Holbrook as Klaber manages to stay in the film to the climax. But he is a one-dimensional villain. Lacking any empathy, Klaber appears, does some nasty things, and then is portrayed as a bungling henchman. He is the one we want to boo when he appears but once again, there is almost nothing here for Holbrook to work with. He too is a throwaway character, only appearing to say or do something evil and then go back into the shadows. Both he and Shaunette Renee Wilson deserve better.
ANTONIO BANDERAS & TOBY JONES
Antonio Banderas, and Toby Jones all have the task of being in an Indiana Jones film in what are little more than extended cameos. Toby Jones’ character of Basil Shaw sets up the film and its premise but he comes across as a bungling sidekick, similar to Denham Elliott’s turn as Marcus Brody in The Last Crusade. A character that by rights should be a strong one comes across as little more than a lucky idiot. But he does have a part to play that sets the film up nicely.
It appears that Renaldo, portrayed by Antonio Banderas and a longtime friend of Indy, has a relatively small part in the film. The role seems underdeveloped and could have been performed by any actor. It’s possible that the inclusion of Banderas was simply to enhance his Hollywood credentials with an Indiana Jones movie credit.
John Rhys-Davies makes his third appearance as Sallah in the film. Sadly, it is a token cameo from the veteran Welsh Actor. Don’t get me wrong, it is delightful to see him make a final appearance in the franchise. We also get to discover how Sallah arrives in America. And we get a wonderful throwback to the original Raiders near the end (Listen out for it.) But again, it feels as if Sallah has been thrown into the mix without much thought. And with his appearance partway through the film and again at the climax, it feels as if he is there to draw in the audience instead of having a big part to play in the proceedings.
James Mangold is behind the camera this time, replacing Steven Spielberg who steps down to an executive producer credit. To be honest and fair to Mangold, he does a bang-up job directing the action. You can’t really tell that it isn’t Spielberg wielding the megaphone unless someone told you. Mangold manages to frame the shots, direct the action, and deliver a film that looks the part with ease. James Mangold is a superb director and he is on top form here. It is such a shame that the material he has to work with isn’t up to his high standards. If it was, he could have delivered a film that MAY have given Raiders or at the very least Last Crusade a run for their money. Instead, he delivers a film that looks good but feels empty.
The legendary John Williams is back one final time to compose the score for the film. Now, I love John Williams and his music. He is in the top two of the best film composers of all time. So it is sad to report that his score for the film feels safe and ordinary. Yes, we get the blast of the classic Raiders March throughout. But some of his new music for the film just doesn’t seem fitting for some reason. The opening thirty minutes contains enough of his famous cues to fill an entirely different movie.
Without listening to the score album itself, I can’t tell if some of the music has been directly lifted from Last Crusade or has been re-scored for the film. Yes, the classic cues are there, which bring a smile to our faces. Rather than being inspirational, those movies bring us back to what has already passed, and to better films. While the motifs bring us back to classic Indy, it also makes us pine for those good old days when an Indiana Jones movie thrilled us.
We were left disappointed by our hero’s departure, which didn’t meet our high expectations. Everyone had imagined a thrilling and grand exit as he rode off into the sunset after his final adventure. While there were some enjoyable moments throughout the movie, the references to previous films only served as a reminder that we would rather be watching those instead.
Fortunately, Indy’s conclusion is fitting and ends in the best way possible. No spoilers but fans will appreciate the final cameo. The reenactment of a famous scene is well-executed and stands out as a highlight. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie falls short.
ONE FINAL INSULT FOR FANS
One final insult for all Indy fans is the end credits. The film saves the credits for the end of the film, which doesn’t fit with the rest of the franchise. But we expect the Raiders March to see the film out with a sound-thumping final blast. At the start of the credits, we hear the march being played, slowly building up to its peak. And then, we get new music onwards until the credits have finished rolling. They even took that final blast away from Indy.
It makes the fans leave the theatre with a hollow feeling, along with a feeling of being cheated. Despite Harrison Ford handing in his fedora in a great performance, we find ourselves wanting the Dial Of Destiny for ourselves, so we can rewind back to the good old days. This isn’t the finale Indy deserves. It’s Raiders Of The Last Dollar. And not in a good way.
Walt Disney Studios is releasing the highly anticipated film “Indiana Jones And The Dial Of Destiny” on Thursday in the UK and on Friday in the USA. But thanks to Disney Plus, Indy fans won’t have to wait to get their fix. All four of the classic Indy adventures are available to stream on the platform now. So the hunt for fortune and glory continues!
But which classic adventure will you be streaming first? Sound off in the comments below.
Carl Roberts is the News Editor for The Future of the Force. Aside from being our horror genre aficionado, he is also passionate about Star Wars, Marvel, DC, and the Indiana Jones movies. Follow him on Twitter where he uses the force frequently!